May 2016 Income: Talking Taxes
It's a new month, and I'm back with another income report! This is my third income report to date and I'm thrilled I've been able to keep up with these posts. May was a strong month for me in terms of getting work, and I even managed to balance all the job opportunities at the same time as writing my Master's thesis. It's been more difficult than I anticipated because I have had to complete multiple drafts of my thesis for review by my prof and it has required at least 1/3 of my time. Between travel time for meetings in Toronto and making multiple edits it's been really challenging, but surprisingly such a rewarding process and learning experience. My blog, by comparison, takes up pretty much ALL of my time so it's hard to have something compete with it…
While I freelanced part time for the Yellow Pages, HuffPost and others while I was taking classes for my Masters, it's been quite the adjustment working from home on a permanent, full-time basis. If you've read my other income reports (here's one and two), you'll know that I recently moved back to my parents' home in Hamilton for the first time in six years to pay back my student loans and save up some money to move back to Toronto into a place of my own.
Here’s a breakdown of my income from this month:
- $150 from advertising (Google Adsense, Gourmet Ads, Chicory and AOL Ads)
- $1893 sponsored posts (clients came from a variety of PR firms, independent brands and blogger networks)
- $100 freelance writing work
The goal I have set for myself as a full-time freelancer is to make at least $2000 a month between jobs for my blog and freelance writing/photography/food styling opportunities. With this in mind, some months my income can be $4000, and others it can be $1500. It really depends on luck and whether or not I have had the time to go out and seek out opportunities.
In May, my traffic dipped slightly but I still managed to get really great gigs – I landed a big ambassadorship with a major grocery store and I also had a couple of well-paying sponsored posts. About a third of my sponsored posts for the month came from blogger networks such as Food Bloggers of Canada and Social Fabric. I’ve also heard good things about Mode Foodie but they require you to have their ads above the fold. The remaining sponsored post opportunities I received this month were through emails directly from my site, and PR agencies I have worked with in the past on similar types of sponsored content for different clients. I find that my connections in the Toronto PR and media industry really come in handy – odds are if I do a good job on one campaign, I get referred for another at some point.
I also slightly increased my advertising revenue because my traffic was decent. I am starting to see traffic slow for June because the summer months are apparently, according to other bloggers, notoriously slow. I have only ever seen a very slow but steady increase in traffic to my blog because I started with a very small audience, so this is the first time that I've experienced the summer slow down.
As a result, I'm trying to take more time to strategize better content instead of getting discouraged, and I'm also considering using the downtime to scale back on posting and start creating videos. Not only will this most likely bring more traffic to my blog, but it will also enable me to learn a new skill that employers are looking for, and it will also probably create a new revenue stream – brands and advertisers (as well as big news media that hire freelancers) are really looking for videos these days.
I look at my blog as a living, breathing portfolio piece of the type of industry I'm working in. I really do love food styling, and in May I had someone from a large ad agency reach out to me about using me as a food stylist for an upcoming campaign. The deal never came to fruition (I don't think they were able to get a contract with their client), but I was very flattered that someone like that would even reach out to me and it was a big confidence booster. It also made me realize that I have true potential in the field and has got me thinking about looking into other opportunities of this kind once I get school out of the way.
One area that I've kind of struggled with has been the taxes I will pay as a freelancer. When you're self-employed, you have to pay more taxes because you don't have an employer that deducts Canada Pension Plan (CPP) or Employment Insurance (EI) from your income. If I make around the $24,000 income this year that is my goal as a freelancer, I will have to pay about $5000 of that in income tax and CPP. From my understanding you don't have to pay into EI if you're self employed but don't take my word for it. Obviously because I'm not paying taxes right now, I have to be wary at year's end that I will owe a lump sum. So, I'm trying to guesstimate what my taxes are going to be at that time based off of the money I have coming in now, so I'm putting away a little bit each month into a separate bank account so I'm prepared.
As a business, I also have to register to charge HST once I clear $30,000, which I still may do this year even if my goal is a minimum of $24,000. I know that I've been reporting my monthly income as it breaks down, but I tend to get larger jobs in lump sums and am then paid monthly. For instance, I have broken down my big ambassadorship into amounts I will get per month, but at this date I have booked over $11,000 worth of jobs since March. Based on this trend, I may in fact break the $30,000 mark. I have tried not to set my sights too high, however, because the freelancing world can be tough and sometimes there's only so much you can do to earn money for the month. My accountant also recommended that I start charging tax to clients because it makes me look more professional. We'll see if I jumped the gun too quickly or not.
When I move back to Toronto in about a year's time, I'm hoping to land a more full-time job with a decent salary in the field of communications/food media in the city, and then have this blog act as supplementary income. In the meantime, my blog acts as my primary source of income and a portfolio for future employers. When I do move back and do both, hopefully I will be able to scale back on posting to have a better work-life balance. I think as a freelancer you are always thinking ahead and making scalable goals and re-evaluating along the way. It's funny because when I first entered my Master's I assumed that I would be freelancing afterward and here I am!
One thing I have been happy about is that I have taken a few weeks' long break from photography to focus on my Master's thesis (recipe development and photography are both by far the most time consuming processes of my blog) and I think I've since been able to improve my skills slightly as a result. Sometimes you need to take a break from things to re-evaluate your skills and become more detail-oriented. I actually just did my first photoshoot in a couple weeks yesterday and was very happy with how it turned out. I'm even going to try to turn a few of my photos into a GIF! We'll see how that goes… Nothing like a little hiatus from something to get your creative juices back and flowing!
I received more sponsored work this month than I did last month, so I was very happy about that. I've been clearing at least $1000 in sponsored work every single month since March, so I'm very happy that this continues to be the case again and again. I did not have time to seek out freelance work, but am starting to craft ideas that I hope to pitch to food publications. I'm also reading books on pitching because I kind of suck in this department – I think I'm a good writer and photographer but find it hard to sell my ideas to publications (even if I can to clients!). I am also working on my thesis, and am planning on pitching that to some Canadian publications. It's a long form magazine feature, so I'm hoping it goes for a couple thousand bucks since I have spent a year's time working on it. Now that I've talked a bit about where I'm at in the freelancing department, I want to start talking goals!
What I Accomplished Last Month:
- Started to build editorial calendars by season with recipes that have been better researched for SEO
- Bought some new photography backgrounds to assist with my story-telling and to provide some more variety in my photography
- Cultivated a large, well-researched list of food publications I can start pitching to to bring in some more income from freelance work (e.g. Best Health Magazine, Clean Eating, Food52, Better Homes & Gardens, Vegetarian Times, Prevention, Reader's Digest, etc.)
- Changed the URL of my website to better reflect my branding – I saw a huge dip in Google traffic but within a month's time it has climbed back up to its previous level and shows sign of growth
Goals for the Upcoming Month:
- Redesign areas of my homepage to better reflect my branding and show off evergreen content on my site like meal planning resources, most popular recipes, etc.
- Incorporate more story-telling into my recipes and creating bi-weekly posts that show off more about who I am (this should help with my branding and when pitching to publications)
- Find new ways to diversify my income in relation to work I'm already doing on the blog by seeking out other freelance opportunities (e.g. by creating video, social media marketing services, etc.)
- Pitch ideas to all kinds of food publications (online and print) to increase my freelance writing and photography income
- Create my first video by the middle of July
Helpful Reads to Achieve my Goals:
SEO for Food Blogs Deconstructed – Cucumbertown
How to Find Brand Ambassadors – Being Boss Podcast (Melissa from Food Bloggers of Canada recently posted this in our group forum. While it's more for businesses on how to select ambassadors, it's sure to be really helpful for those looking to pitch brands)
There we are, the end of Income Report #3. Thanks so much for reading! Are you confused about tracking your taxes or income? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments!
*There are no direct affiliate links in this post, but there may be some located in other pages I have linked to in this post